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Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Duties and Responsibilities

Rehabilitation centers, group homes, individual patients, and counseling facilities hire vocational rehabilitation counselors to perform various day-to-day duties. However, these essential core tasks are the same across all types of employers and facilities:

Assess Patients Vocational rehabilitation counselors assess patients’ skills and viability for the workforce, determining when they are ready to begin part-time or full-time employment.

Evaluate Employment Potential Vocational rehabilitation counselors evaluate patient qualifications, strengths, and weaknesses to determine the most suitable types of employment for each patient.

Record Patient Information Vocational rehabilitation counselors add notes to patient files and keep records updated with new information after every session with patients.

Counsel Patients Vocational rehabilitation counselors provide group and individual job counseling to people with disabilities and other employment challenges.

Design Job Plans Vocational rehabilitation counselors create job plans for patients to help them achieve their employment goals and earn the income they need to maintain the lifestyle they want.

Write Insurance Reports Vocational rehabilitation counselors write reports and follow-up reports for insurance companies to note ongoing patient progress and changes in their condition.

Research Training Programs Vocational rehabilitation counselors find appropriate training programs for patients to help them develop new job skills and qualifications.


Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Skills and Qualifications

Vocational rehabilitation counselors are patient listeners and advisors who guide people toward the careers they want and help them understand and overcome the challenges they must face. Employers hire vocational rehabilitation counselors with the following skills:

  • Critical thinking – vocational rehabilitation counselors use their analytical abilities and critical thinking skills to make unbiased patient evaluations and assessments
  • Interpersonal skills – vocational rehabilitation counselors put patients at ease and help them open up about their career goals, which requires good interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills – vocational rehabilitation counselors must have good verbal and written communication skills to fill out reports and speak with patients effectively
  • Research skills – because vocational rehabilitation counselors help patients find training programs and job opportunities, strong research skills are an essential component of this career
  • Computer skills – vocational rehabilitation counselors use computer skills to enter information into patient files, fill out insurance forms, and perform research

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Education and Training

Many employers require vocational rehabilitation counselors to have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field of study. For some employers, a bachelor’s degree in addition to past work experience can be substituted for a master’s degree. Vocational rehabilitation counselors typically receive training from new employers to become familiar with current patients and rehabilitation protocols. Typically, this training period lasts one or more weeks, depending on employer. During training, vocational rehabilitation counselors will sit in on group counseling sessions, review patient records, and work closely with a program coordinator or case manager.


Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Salary and Outlook

According to career data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), rehabilitation counselors receive a median annual wage of $34,670. Vocational rehabilitation counselors perform the same job duties as rehabilitation counselors, who help people with disabilities to live independently, but their emphasis is on employment. The BLS shows that there were almost 120,000 jobs for rehabilitation counselors in 2016, and projects that this number will rise by 13 percent through 2026. This number is rising faster than the average national job growth rate. Vocational rehabilitation counselors who work full time receive health insurance benefits from most employers. These benefits usually include life insurance, dental, and vision coverage. Full-time employees also receive vacation time and sick days. Part-time employees do not typically receive benefits, and independent contractors receive no benefits at all because they work on a freelance basis.


Helpful Resources

Use these books and websites to find work opportunities, learn job strategies, and discover other resources for vocational rehabilitation counselors who want to succeed at this career path:

The Professional Practice of Rehabilitation Counseling – this textbook is a useful guide for vocational rehabilitation counselors who want to learn effective counseling strategies and real-world approaches to performing their jobs

American Rehabilitation Counseling Association – this site was designed to provide industry news updates, information about upcoming conferences, and research resources for rehabilitation counselors of all types

Handbook of Severe Disability: A Text for Rehabilitation Counselors, Other Vocational Practitioners, and Allied Health Professionals – vocational rehabilitation counselors will find strategies and tips for helping patients with disabilities in this guidebook

International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals – visit IARP to find career and education resources, discover upcoming industry events, and find ways to connect with a broad community of vocational rehabilitation professionals

Demystifying Job Development: Field-Based Approaches to Job Development for People with Disabilities – this book contains helpful on-the-job strategies for vocational rehabilitation professionals, as well as useful tips for professionals tasked with helping disabled people meet their personal career goals